‘We cannot learn without pain’

Attributed to Aristotle, the full thing being, ‘Learning is not child’s play; we cannot learn without pain.’

I would disagree if the learner is an actual child because playing is exactly how the youngest children learn; learning being a beautifully natural default setting whereby a child soaks up learning as unconsciously as a sponge soaks up water. Until, until… the child becomes aware of the external world. Its expectations and setbacks, it’s confusing inconsistency. The forked tongues of adults. The contrary way of teachers. I agree then, the learning can truly sometimes become pain.

I experienced it today, in the class I was teaching, a class of adults. I am always aware that teaching is learning too, and whilst you, the teacher learn, you sit with the learning of others; working with changing insights, openings, chasms and pain. It is holding a mirror up to the process of learning and asking questions to support that. Of course you try to support the person too, but the learning still comes hard-edged and painful. We no longer effortlessly sponge it in, it is like a birth in reverse. Painful and uncomfortable to be close to.

I remind myself, why, why I am there, or here. Not to serve the person in that moment, although that is the hope in the long run. Certainly not to serve myself – there are far easier ways to earn a living – I know because I have tried most of them. I am there to deliver the learning. The visceral, agonising, cord-around-its-neck learning.

We nearly always get there in the end, but as I try to clean up in the messy aftermath of a class, I cannot help but wonder about the wonder of it all.


Posted on March 5, 2012, in Be not idle, Children and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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